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Is Your Realtor Qualified? Part 2 of 4

by Gary Nelson

As I stated in my last blog (Part 1 of this subject) I believe that unfortunately there may be a majority of Realtors who are not qualified to represent your best interests in a real estate transaction.  You can read that earlier blog here:  Is Your Realtor Qualified? (Part 1).   I have come to this conclusion by rubbing elbows with the best in the industry and also having experience with agents that are…less than stellar in their business practices.  It is my opinion that a Realtors “professionalism” can be measured by experience, dedication, adoption of technology and trends and finally education.  We will look at education in this blog.

Education:

I would divide this category into two sections, really. Those would be continuing education and also Realtor designations.  When it comes to “continuing education”, a Realtor has many choices, but the choices they make can be very telling.  What I mean is this: Is your agent dedicated to getting the best, most current education there is…or are they skating by, and only taking the minimum in continuing education hours because it is required by the Arizona Department of Real Estate?

A significant number of Realtors learn about changes to the industry by trial and error.  Scary, isn't it?  Name another profession where the "School Of Hard Knocks" is the most attended school for continuing education. 


In Arizona, a real estate agent needs 24 hours of continuing education in a 2 year period.  That is a pitifully low number of hours required.  That’s 12 hours of classroom time per year. But, the State also allows online education, webinars and live feeds.  So, your Realtor can actually be “educated” by sitting in front of a computer, take an online class, never interact with an instructor and move on.  But the worst part is, many real estate agents have learned how to cheat the online system, by not actually being at the computer while the timer is going!  Ultimately who they are cheating is themselves, but unfortunately that means they are cheating you too.

Additionally, many agents wait until the last few days of that 2 year period to take their classes and then scramble to find a live class or just take all their online renewal classes at once.  There are real estate classes called “renew-athons” where the agent can just take all 24 hours needed over a fun-filled weekend.  Many times these are online classes, but some of these classes are offered live in Mexico or on a cruise ship!  Now that is dedication to an industry.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some multi-day conferences in Arizona that give your Realtor a tremendous education.  2 dear friends of mine are Realtors and educators.  They have 1 ½ day conferences that provide wonderful education, discussion and insight into trends.  These classes are both fun and informative.  Also, some Realtor designations require multiple day classes and also provide the best education possible to a Realtor in today's market.

Another way that a Realtor can continue their dedication to educating themselves is by earning designations and certifications.  For a list of recognized designations and certifications, look to Realtor.org.  This is not Realtor.com, which advertises homes for sale.  Realtor.org is the website for the National Association of Realtors and the part dedicated to explaining designations is here: http://www.realtor.org/designations-and-certifications

As you can see, there are many ways a Realtor can extend their knowledge base and these are the programs that are recognized by the National Association of Realtors.  If your Realtor’s “designation” isn’t listed here, then chances are it took them an afternoon to earn.  It may be a private certification class to teach them how to “negotiate” with the big dogs.  When it comes to designations for a residential Realtor, the CRS (Certified Residential Specialist) is the top designation one can get on a national level and the GRI (Graduate of the Realtor Institute) is the top state specific designation in most, but not all states.  In Arizona, the GRI program is regarded as one of the best nationwide and the classes and therefore the designation, is top notch.


So, when I started this blog in Part 1, I suggested that you ask your Realtor a series of questions specifically geared toward discovering what they do to stay educated.   My first suggestion would be to search for your Realtor here: http://services.azre.gov/publicdatabase/SearchIndividuals.aspx

That site is of course, the Arizona Department of Real Estate.  It allows you to not only see if any disciplinary action was taken against your Realtor, but also how many continuing education classes he or she has taken and what kind.

 In addition to that, here are some suggested questions for your Realtor:

  • What real estate designations do you hold?
  • How many continuing education hours did you turn in when you last renewed your license?
  • How do you typically get your continuing education hours?

After reading what I have outlined here, clicking on the above links and educating yourself on your Realtors education, you should be able to decide for yourself how well your current or prospective Realtor does when it comes to education!  How is this relevant to you?  Think of any other profession that requires continuing education to keep a state license and how you hope that person stays connected and educated!

My next blog in this series “Is Your REALTOR Qualified”, will discuss some agent’s worst nightmare:  Technology!  Technology and your Realtors relationship to it can make or break a deal.  Stay tuned as I explain why!


Gary Nelson is a lifelong resident of Flagstaff, Arizona and is the Delegated Associate Broker at Realty Executives of Flagstaff.  Find your own part of Flagstaff at www.GaryNelsonGroup.com.

Is Your Realtor Qualified? Part 1 of 4

by Gary Nelson

Is your Realtor qualified to represent your best interests?  Odds are…they are not.  In a recently released study, the National Association of Realtors shocked the industry by revealing that the greatest threat to organized real estate is “marginal agents”.  Released in June of 2015, the National Association of Realtors report was called the “Danger Report” and detailed out that the greatest threat to the real estate industry are agents that are unskilled and lack the knowledge to effectively represent buyers and sellers.

From the Danger Report: “The real estate industry is saddled with a large number of part-time, untrained, unethical, and/or incompetent agents. This knowledge gap threatens the credibility of the industry.”

For Sale Sign

The Danger Report continues: “The knowledge and competency gap from the most to the least is very large, due to the low barriers to entry, low continuing education requirements, and the lure of quickly making big dollars. For decades the industry has held the opinion that it’s a profession, however the reality is that those outside the industry don’t hold the same opinion. Most professions (doctors, lawyers, accountants, and engineers) require thousands of hours of study, beginning with a bachelor’s degree. Even becoming an earth driller requires an average of 704 hours of instruction, and becoming a cosmetologist requires an average of a 372 hours. But to become a licensed real estate agent requires an average of only 70 hours with the lowest state requirement being 13 hours.”  Arizona Requires 90 hours of classroom instruction to become a real estate agent.  

Here is a link to the startling website that was created: http://www.dangerreport.com

Do you think that is scary?  Well, this is worse:  In my opinion and having been in the business for 21 years now, I believe that well over 60% of Realtors have no business being in the business.  And 60% is being very, very generous.  That is of course my opinion, but this echoes the Danger Report and when I mention this to my colleagues, they all agree.   I have not had one single Realtor disagree with my assessment and some think that only 25% of Realtors are actually qualified to do their jobs!  At a recent leadership event that was hosted by the Arizona Association of Realtors, every colleague I asked felt that less than 50% of current agents should be in the business at all.  Several of my most respected colleagues said less than 25% should be allowed in the business.


Transfer Of Keys

And the sad thing is that the number of sales that an agent has in a year (what agents call “production level”) has very little to do with it.  Yes, an agent can learn the hard way, as they say, but unless they are keeping up with trends, changes to law and regulation, changes to commonly used forms and technology, how many houses they sold last year pales.  A Realtor may have sold 50 houses last year, but if they are not properly educated and dedicated, they could get you or someone else into a lot of trouble in this litigious society we have today.

So what does this mean to you?  It means you need to interview your agent.  Even your current one.  Even your friend.  Many agents will suggest and provide you a list of questions to ask a Realtor during an interview.  They are typically good questions, but usually the questions provided are easily answered in a positive way by the person that wrote the questions and then gave them to you!  I would suggest delving just a little deeper and maybe coming up with your own questions.  And how you do that is up to you, but if it was me…I would ask questions in these categories:  Education, experience and technology.  I will elaborate in upcoming blogs, give you some ideas to formulate your questions and talk about different Realtors’ general dedication to professionalism in the industry.  Stay tuned!


Gary Nelson is a lifelong resident of Flagstaff, Arizona and is the Delegated Associate Broker at Realty Executives of Flagstaff.  Find your own part of Flagstaff at www.GaryNelsonGroup.com.

Preparing A Home For Winter

by Gary Nelson

With winter fast approaching, I think it is timely that we talk about what needs to get done to your home in order to prepare for freezing temperatures.  For those of us that live in cold climates, it is imperative that you get things done prior to the first deep freeze.  Over the years, I have made a few mistakes and have lost some nice ceramic pots and blown out a few sprinkler system pipes.  So, here are some things to keep in mind before Old Man Winter comes calling:

Clean out the gardens and prepare plants for winter.  You will appreciate this in the spring.  Extra mulch where needed and cutting back dead plants will help ensure that they come back next year.  A very interesting mulch I have found is called Cocoa Mulch.  It is the husks from cocoa plants and in the sun and with a bit of water, your yard has the faint smell of chocolate!  It looks great in large pots, also.

Store the outdoor furniture properly.  This will help you save some money!  All those great pads for your chairs and loungers?  They need to be properly stored.  Even without snow, that sun can be brutal and those pads are expensive. Same thing for umbrellas.   Also, is that a glass table top that you have?  I had one shatter under a snow load and started storing mine on its side.  If you lose a glass table top, good luck replacing the glass. It is so expensive that you will wind up buying a whole new set. That doesn’t have glass!

Ceramic needs to be stored away properly.  If you like those ceramic pots and that chiminea (outdoor ceramic fireplace), they need proper storage.  Make sure they stay dry all winter.  They can be cold, but have to be dry.  So, cover them completely or store in a shed, just making sure that they are completely dry beforehand. It is the water within the clay of the ceramics that causes cracks and then they degrade over time.  For cold climates, fiberglass works great for outdoor flower pots and cast iron chimineas last for years and years.

Drain the landscaping water system.  Remember to open valves up and allow that water to completely drain from the system.  A “stop and dump” valve with a back-flow preventer at the water supply is the best thing for this.  Do it early but not too early.  With fall typically being dry, your yard needs the moisture before the snow falls.  Consider draining the sprinkler system and hand watering for a few weeks.  But make sure those hoses get put away.  Speaking of which…

Unhook that hose!  Quick before any hard freezes come along. Even with “frost free” water spigots, you will wind up with leaks if you let that hose stay hooked up all winter.  There is a small amount of water that is stored inside the valve and unhooking the hose allows it to drain. The expansion and contraction of that water is what causes that valve to eventually fail.

Drain those hoses.  About 5 years ago, I noticed smoke in my backyard early one cold winter morning. Looking over the fence, I found the side of my neighbor’s house fully engulfed in flames!  We called 911 and I hopped the fence, but could not put water on the fire because both my hose and his were completely frozen solid.  I learned my lesson.  If you ever really NEED a hose…make sure you can use it.

Don’t forget to clean out the gutters.  Ugh.  I hate cleaning out the gutters. But what would you rather have, a few hours less time on that Sunday afternoon, or replace gutters that got damaged from the ice dam in the worst part of winter?  Leaves and pine needles add extra weight and cause ice dams that will eventually damage those gutters.

Add insulation to problem areas. Sometimes it’s a particular window or door. Other times it is attic access doors.  Hardware stores have some amazing products for the do-it-yourselfer.  From expanding -foam insulation and pipe insulation kits to whole window sheeting, take a look and ask for a recommendation at a hardware store.  And go local if you can!

Test your heating system.  Before hard winter hits, change the filters and run the furnace.  Do it while you can air out the house afterward.  Don’t forget that dusty, burning smell that comes with running your furnace the first time each winter.  Also, don’t forget to make sure the chimney flue is where it should be and that furniture is away from floor registers or heating elements.

I don’t know about you, but these are the things that I have learned living in an area that has all 4 seasons. And season 4 can hit pretty hard at times!


San Francisco Peaks After A Heavy Snow Fall

 

How to leave a home unattended for awhile (not all winter, but for “awhile”):  

  • Turn off the main water supply to the house.  Just in case you have a power failure and the pipes freeze.
  • Turn the thermostat to 58 degrees or higher.  This prevents drywall damage and allows heat to penetrate the walls to keep pipes from freezing. 
  • Open all cabinets that have sinks or plumbing underneath. This allows the warmer air to keep those pipes warmer. This is especially important for sinks located on an outside wall.
  • Open all bedroom doors and closet.  Again, this allows warmer air to circulate.
  • Use a house check service to make sure everything is OK. Contact me for a recommendation.

That’s it!  Stay warm all winter!  Next up:  How to “Winterize” a home and leave it all winter!  Perfect for those that have second homes or are thinking about getting a second home. 


Gary Nelson is a lifelong resident of Flagstaff, Arizona and is the Delegated Associate Broker at Realty Executives of Flagstaff.  Find your own part of Flagstaff at www.GaryNelsonGroup.com.

What To Know When Buying A Foreclosure

by The Gary Nelson Group

There are many intricacies when purchasing a home that has been foreclosed upon and up for sale by the lender. These properties are known as REO’s,  which means “Real Estate Owned” or Bank Owned. REO’s can be both a very good deal and a potential nightmare.

Most lenders have the home appraised prior to putting the home up for sale and typically price the home below market value in hopes of attracting buyers quickly.  So while you can get a home for below market value there are trade-offs.  Here are some things to keep in mind:

The bank will not inform you of any known defects in the home. As a matter of fact you will likely get no information at all and will have to waive your rights to all disclosures.  All bank owned properties are sold “AS-IS, Where is”, meaning they will not make any repairs to mechanical items as in a normal transaction.  Therefore, Home Inspections for bank owned properties are imperative. I recommend using a licensed home inspector AND a team of a contractor, roofer, plumber, electrician, etc.  The bank cannot take away your right to inspections.  In this case they are imperative.

The bank may not supply or agree to sign paperwork required by law.  Some banks refuse to fill out or supply forms that are required under state law. Most of the banks operate on a national level and are not familiar with state to state customs. From subdivision disclosures to rural property forms, some banking institutions think that some of the forms are liabilities and will not supply them, even if required to do so.

The buyer will assume all repairs and defects once the transaction is closed. So knowing what you are getting into is very important.  A lot of the homes have sat vacant for long time periods of time and have had deferred maintenance and some will have damage as a result. If an item comes up on the home inspection be sure and investigate it further.

Thermal imagining may be a way to further investigate behind walls and under flooring.  Home Inspectors are not allowed to cut into walls or pull up flooring during the inspection. No “destructive testing” is allowed. So to insure that the property is in the condition you expect, a home inspector that does thermal imaging can investigate water leaks inside walls.  

Be sure and check into the chain of title on the property.  You can check with the title company to make sure the bank has proper ownership of the home.  Sometimes Foreclosure Deeds and Deeds in Lieu of Foreclosure (where the previous owner just turned the house back to the bank) do not get recorded properly. This can cause major delays in closing the sale.

Check to see if monies are owed to a utility company. In Arizona, municipalities cannot charge for services that were ordered by the previous owner or tenant. However, cooperative or private utilities such as rural water companies, can and sometimes do charge the new owner for what services that the previous owner or tenant received!

Check to see if past homeowner association dues are owed.  As with utilities, it is always better to be safe than to be sorry.  The purchase contract addresses liens and dues by homeowner associations, but at times past fees and transfer fees don’t show up for months.  Also, some home owners associations address past fees on a case by case basis, meaning they will waive fees for some individuals, but not for others.  Check the bank addendum thoroughly regarding HOA past dues.

Some Deeds are not as guaranteed as others.  Do your homework and check into how the Bank/Owner will Deed the property to you. Quit claim deeds and Special Warranty Deeds are not as protective as a Warranty Deed.  So the title policy insurance that they provide you could be insufficient if there are claims later. You may choose to pay the difference to the title company, to absolutely insure clear title.

Patience will be needed. Delays and repairs may be encountered during the purchase process, thereby delaying the close of escrow.  Counting on a foreclosed home to close escrow by a certain date may be a mistake.  If there are delays, it is typically the fault of the bank that owns the property and the Buyer may be waiting for weeks or sometimes months for documentation, signatures or clear title.

A REALTOR can be especially helpful in guiding you through these details. Buyer representation is very important in the purchase of a bank owned home and can save you a lot of time and heartache. During the process you are required to sign lengthy bank addendums that can negate some of the protections built into the state purchase contract and assign fees to buyers that are typically seller fees. A REALTOR that is experienced in foreclosures can save you much of the frustration and heartache.

 

Buying a foreclosure can be a steal but know what you are giving up for the fantastic price!


Gary Nelson is a lifelong resident of Flagstaff, Arizona and is the Delegated Associate Broker at Realty Executives of Flagstaff.  Find your own part of Flagstaff at www.GaryNelsonGroup.com.

Displaying blog entries 1-4 of 4

Contact Information

The Gary Nelson Group
Realty Executives of Flagsaff
15 E. Cherry Ave. Suite 101
Flagstaff AZ 86001
Direct: 928-225-3510
Office: 928-773-9300
Fax: 928-774-1102


 

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